We do not live in a functioning democracy - republican, direct, or otherwise. You don't have to look at the 2000 election to know that - as I've discussed before, you can just look at the basic mathematics of the U.S. Senate, which gives the same representation to 600,000 people in Wyoming that it gives to tens of millions of people in California (and that says nothing of the filibuster, either). And, as my newspaper column today shows, American tyranny - that is, America's lack of democracy - is now distorting the health care debate.
Right now, we're watching six U.S. senators (from some of the most sparsely populated states) and seven Commerce Committee Blue Dog Democrats hijack the health care debate. Together, these 13 tyrants represent just 13 million people - or 4 percent of the total population. And they are obstructing a health care bill for the other 300 million of us.
I ran the numbers on these districts and states - and there's some particularly interesting things to note.
First, the Congressional Black Caucus is right - it's not a coincidence that the people holding up health care are not only themselves all white, but represent disproportionately undiverse districts. In all, these districts have about half the African-American and Latino populations as the country at large. Put another way, the districts and states whose representatives are obstructing health care disproportionately under-represent two major communities with a particularly vested interest in health care reform.
On the other hand, these districts and states are also disproportionately poor. The average poverty rate of the states/districts of the 13 tyrants are higher and the per capita income lower than the national average. That should give these folks a particular interest in health care reform, considering that reform will disproportionately help constituents who can't afford health care.
Except, that gets us to campaign contributions. As you'll see in the column, the mix of legalized bribery and a tyrannical system that lets the very few legislate for the very many can easily make legislators vote against their own districts' interests.
Read the whole column here to see how it all works.
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